Wednesday 23 July 2014

Injured explorer hauled out of Germany's deepest cave by a 700-strong rescue operation after spending nearly two weeks underground

Published 19/06/2014|11:25

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Bavaria's mountain rescue team "Bergwacht Bayern" carry injured researcher Johann Westhauser outside the Riesending cave in Untersberg, south of Munich June 19, 2014. The 52-year-old speleologist was finally brought to the surface after a complex rescue operation. He has been trapped for twelve days after a rock fell and hit him while inside the 1,000 metre-deep cave system in southern Germany.      REUTERS/Bergwacht Bayern/Handout via Reuters    (GERMANY - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Bavaria's mountain rescue team "Bergwacht Bayern" carry injured researcher Johann Westhauser outside the Riesending cave in Untersberg, south of Munich. Reuters/Bergwacht Bayern/Handout via Reuters

An injured German caver has been hauled out of the country's deepest cavern by a 700-strong multinational rescue operation after spending nearly two weeks underground.

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Johann Westhauser, an experienced caver, had gone into the Riesending cave system in the Alps with two companions to carry out research and measurements.

He was hit in the head during a June 8 rock fall while nearly 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) underground.

After lengthy preparations, rescue teams began the arduous task of hauling him up through a labyrinth of narrow passages and precipitous vertical shafts five days later.

Rescuers brought the 52-year-old the final 180 metres (590 feet) to the surface today and immediately sent him to hospital.

Bavarian mountain rescue chief Norbert Heiland said: "A chapter of Alpine rescue history has been written here over the last 12 days."

He said officials initially doubted whether a rescue was possible. It has become a media event with multi-page spreads in German tabloids.

In all, 728 people from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Croatia participated in the operation, director Klaus Reindl said.

"Since the birth of caving, there have been only two incidents of this depth, complexity and difficulty," Italian rescuer Roberto Conti said.

A fit expert could climb from the accident site to the entrance in about 12 hours, but rescuers had to haul Mr Westhauser on a stretcher. The cave entrance is on a mountainside, 1,800 metres (5,900 feet) above sea level.

Mr Westhauser's condition has been described throughout as stable and Mr Reindl said he "came through the rescue operation well".

Bavaria's top security official said he wants to make sure the highly publicised rescue does not attract "risk tourism".

Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann advocated shutting the cave entrance to ensure it was accessed only by experts.

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